10 of the best moments and themes from the 2018 F1 season
Starring Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen and Alonso
The dust is settling on another jam-packed Formula One season.
Lewis Hamilton is now a five-time world champion, while it’s adios for Fernando Alonso after a 17-year career.
But while we wait to see what 2019 brings, here’s 10 of the best moments from a riveting 2018 season…
Alonso’s strong start becomes another wasted year
The Australian Grand Prix won’t live long in the memory, but for a while it had us believe that McLaren were back on track.
The former champions had endured a miserable few years with Honda, and turned to Renault for a new direction.
Alonso finished fifth in Melbourne, and sparked hope that a revival was on. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and after another grim season in a lacklustre car, Alonso announced his retirement from the sport this year.
Bottas chases Vettel in Bahrain
If the season-opener in Australia failed to thrill, things really got going in Bahrain.
A thrilling race under the lights produced wheel-to-wheel racing and plenty of sparks. We had a proper scrap at the front too, as Valtteri Bottas hustled Sebastian Vettel all the way.
Ricciardo shows Max how it’s done in China
One week later and the Chinese Grand Prix served up another cracker. A mid-race Safety Car brought the Red Bulls into play, the scene was set for a barnstorming conclusion.
The Grand Prix could and should have been won by either Bottas or Max Verstappen. But the former was undone by the safety car, while the latter collided with Vettel and went off the road.
So it was left to Daniel Ricciardo to display his trademark exemplary racecraft en route to his first win of the season.
Thrills and spills again in Baku
The good times kept on coming in round four in Azerbaijan. After a crazy event in Baku in 2017, the street track produced up more of the same 12 months on.
The tone was set right from off, with collisions, punctures and car parts flying around on the opening lap.
Bottas was heading for victory until the two Red Bulls slammed into each other and flew off the track. Once the subsequent safety car resumed, Vettel blew his chance of winning with an over-ambitious bid for the lead on Bottas.
That dropped him behind Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez. And it proved a crucial mistake as one lap later Bottas ran over debris from the Red Bull incident, blowing his tyre to pieces. Hamilton swept by to take his first win of the season and to kick-start his title challenge.
Wall of Orange cheers Max on to victory
The Dutch don’t have their own race to enjoy, yet. So for now they make do with by descending on the hills to cheer on Verstappen in the Austrian Grand Prix.
Last year their man was out on the first lap, but this time around the Red Bull ace made up for it to claim his first win of the season. It wasn’t a home victory, but it’s as good as he could get.
Vettel slides out in the rain in Germany
After Baku, the title battle turned into a duel as Hamilton and Vettel won two races apiece in the six events leading up to Vettel’s home Grand Prix.
The German seemed to have lucked in, as Hamilton was left 14th on the grid after a mechanical failure in qualifying.
But a mid-race rain shower changed everything. Vettel, leading comfortably, slid off and out of the race while leading with just 16 laps to go.
To make matters worse, Hamilton took advantage of the resulting safety car to claim a remarkable victory, and steal a 33-point swing in the title race.
Raikkonen sets new record lap in Italy
For round 14 in Italy, Hamilton headed to Monza on the back foot. Though he led Vettel by 17 points, the Ferrari man had been uncatchable one week earlier in Belgium.
And the Scuderia showcased their speed in style on home soil, with Kimi Raikkonen posting the fastest average lap speed in a Formula One car at a mighty 163mph. The Finn is off to Sauber for 2019, but that lap displayed all of his talent.
But is beaten by Hamilton on Sunday
But while Ferrari dominated on Saturday, Hamilton got his own back on Sunday with a splendid win.
After Vettel spun while battling with him, Hamilton had to go about the other, and quicker, Ferrari of Raikkonen.
In a fascinating race of cat-and-mouse strategy and side-by-side racing, Hamilton eventually prevailed with just eight laps to go.
Hamilton reaches new heights in Singapore
That win in Monza started a run of four wins which saw Hamilton home in on a fifth world crown.
But the highlight of that run was his performance in Singapore.
The street circuit was seen as a bogey track for Mercedes, yet Hamilton claimed pole position by three tenths of a second from Verstappen, and a scarcely-believable six tenths from Vettel.
It was a lap of Senna-esque proportions, and Mercedes readily admitted that all their data suggested Hamilton’s lap time was impossible. It was that good. He then completed the weekend with a commanding victory on race day.
Verstappen and Ocon come to blows in Brazil
After a troubled start to the season, with costly errors in Bahrain, China and Monaco, Verstappen got his act together for the most part of 2018.
The Dutchman was arguably the driver of the season, and was on course for a magnificent third win of the year in Brazil.
But his former F3 rival Esteban Ocon was keen to unlap himself mid-race on fresh tyres, and the pair came to blows at turn two.
Both kept going, but Verstappen lost the lead – and the win – to Hamilton. The Red Bull man later remonstrated with the Force India driver, pushing and shoving him as he struggled to contain his rage.
With Ricciardo moving to Renault for 2019, Verstappen becomes the de facto team leader at Red Bull, and we can expect more sparks to fly.
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